Your child’s fine motor skills develop as their body gains stability, coordination and spatial awareness. In order to engage with activities, your child needs to have the balance and stability to keep one part of their body still while another part moves; for example, sitting on the floor and playing with building blocks. They will then also develop bilateral coordination which allows them to establish a dominant hand and a helping hand. Spatial awareness means your child becomes aware of where their hands are and what their fingers are doing; for example, stacking building blocks requires precision, stability and awareness.
Before your child begins to learn to write they must have enough muscle strength in their hands. Below are some simple and creative activities that help to develop the fine motor skills, by promoting hand-eye co-ordination, muscle strength, and control:
Children love painting with their hands and getting messy but this is also a fantastic activity for strengthening your child’s hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. Ask them to trace shapes and letters with their fingers so they become familiar with the pattern of movement.
Squeezing a sponge
Playing with water is another firm favourite and using a sponge is a simple way to strengthen your child’s hands and forearms. Set up two bowls and fill one with water and a sponge, or even several little sponges to get their fingers working. Then, ask them to squeeze the water out of the sponge into the empty bowl. Adding food colouring or bubble bath will make this activity more exciting.
This activity is particularly good for hand-eye coordination and handling small objects with precision. Start off by using thick string and big beads, then move on to smaller beads and thread with more of a design element to keep it engaging for older children.
Clothes peg words
Combine learning letters and words with improving dexterity by using clothes pegs with letters written on them. Write words out onto flashcards and then get your child to match the clothes peg letters to the flashcards to make a word. You could even decorate the pegs to make them more colourful and fun.
Playing with homemade dough is brilliant for building up the hand muscles your child needs to write. They can roll, twist and squeeze it to their hearts’ content. Make 3D letters by creating letter mats and then asking your child to make the letter out of dough. This will help them recognise the shape of letters as well as strengthening their hands.
Another way to teach your child the shape of letters and words and the movements needed to make them is water painting. Simply chalk some words or letters on a chalkboard and then provide a paintbrush and some water so your child can trace over them. For younger children you can do this with chunky paintbrushes and large single letters, while it can also help older children with their pencil grip by giving them a thinner paintbrush and smaller written words.
Channel the strength and stability your child gains from these activities into writing practice by using these pencil control sheets. You can also help promote a relaxed hand posture for both left and right handed writers with our STABILO EASYgraph pencils.
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